Beverages Sold with Bartending Services are Meals in Massachusetts

A liquor store, who sometimes delivers beverages to a customer and also provides related bartending services, was found subject to Massachusetts sales/meals tax. The store contended that it is not a restaurant and is not making sales of “meals” subject to sales/meals tax. The statutory definition of a restaurant includes caterers and any establishment where food or beverages are provided for a charge, regardless of who owns or operates the establishment. The argument that sales of alcohol alone are not considered meals was denied because a meal is defined as any food or beverage, or both. Since there is no agency relationship between the store and the customer, the question of whether the customer or caterer owns the meal at the time of sale is irrelevant. In addition, the taxable sales price includes fees for bartending and set-up, whether or not separately stated. (Letter Ruling 09-8, Massachusetts Department of Revenue, November 30, 2009)

Posted on December 16, 2009